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Paiboon Language Academy: Press Release

Paiboon Language Academy

Paiboon Language Academy…

Exciting news! Benjawan Poomsan (Paiboon Publishing) has launched into a new venture, the Paiboon Language Academy. Without further ado, the press release is below:

First Online Interpretation and Translation School for Thai Speakers
โรงเรียนวิชาการล่ามและการแปลทางออนไลน์แห่งแรกสำหรับชาวไทย

Great news for those who want to learn to become interpreters and translators.
ข่าวดีสำหรับผู้ที่ต้องการเป็นล่ามและนักแปล

The first online interpretation and translation school for Thai speakers is open for registration.
โรงเรียนวิชาการล่ามและการแปลออนไลน์แห่งแรกสำหรับชาวไทยเปิดให้ลงทะเบียนแล้วนี้

Paiboon Language Academy (PLA) was founded by Benjawan Poomsan, a well-known author of dozens of Thai language books and apps to teach foreigners to speak Thai. Her products are widely used by English speakers because of their quality and affordability. She has been a professional interpreter and translator in the US for over 20 years.
สถาบันภาษาไพบูลย์ (Paiboon Language Academy หรือ PLA) ก่อตั้งขึ้นโดยเบญจวรรณ ภูมิแสน นักเขียนชื่อดังที่แต่งตำราและแอพสำหรับเรียนภาษาไทยจำนวนมากให้ชาวต่างชาติได้เรียนภาษาไทย ผลงานของเธอได้รับการนำไปใช้อย่างแพร่หลายในหมู่ชาวต่างชาติอันเนื่องจากคุณภาพและราคาที่ย่อมเยา เธอได้เป็นล่ามและนักแปลมืออาชีพในสหรัฐมากว่า 20 ปี

There is much need for Thai interpreters in the US and in the countries where many Thai people live. Even in Thailand, interpreters are in great demand in business meetings, conferences and the court system, where communication problems exist.
มีความต้องการล่ามไทยอย่างมากในสหรัฐและในประเทศที่มีคนไทยอาศัยอยู่จำนวนมาก แม้แต่ในเมืองไทย ล่ามก็เป็นที่ต้องการไม่ว่าจะในการประชุมธุรกิจ การประชุมสัมมนา และในศาลในเวลาที่มีปัญหาในด้านการสื่อสาร

Many Thai people all over the US have requested that Benjawan teach them to become interpreters because they had no idea what to do, or where to begin. In the past 10 years, she has trained her friends, single moms and stay-at-home housewives to become interpreters and translators. Many of these women now make a good income and no longer have to work in Thai restaurants or traditional Thai massage shops.
คนไทยหลายคนทั่วสหรัฐอเมริกาได้ขอให้เบญจวรณสอนวิธีการเป็นล่ามให้เนื่องจากไม่รู้ว่าจะทำอย่างไรหรือจะเริ่มตรงไหน ในช่วงสิบปีที่ผ่านมา เธอได้ฝึกเพื่อนๆ แม่บ้าน ผู้หญิงที่เลี้ยงลูกตามลำพังให้เป็นล่าม ปัจจุบันหลายคนได้มีรายได้และได้เลิกทำงานที่ร้านอาหารไทยและร้านนวดไทย

Benjawan has teamed up with her qualified interpreter friends to teach interpretation and translation courses online and also a general English online course.
เบญจวรรณได้ร่วมทีมกับเพื่อนๆ ที่เป็นล่ามที่ทรงคุณวุฒิเพื่อสอนคอร์สวิชาการล่ามและการแปลและคอร์สภาษาอังกฤษทั่วไป

Our goal in the general English course is to help Thai people anywhere in the world become better at speaking and using English so they can communicate and work effectively with the global community especially our ASEAN neighbors.
เป้าหมายของเราในคอร์สภาษาอังกฤษทั่วไปคือเพื่อช่วยให้คนไทยไม่ว่าจะอยู่ที่ใดของโลกสามารถพูดภาษาอังกฤษได้ดีขึ้นและใช้ภาษาอังกฤษในการสื่อสารและทำงานกับชุมชนโลก โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งกับประเทศเพื่อนบ้านในเขตอาเซียนได้อย่างมีประสิทธิภาพ

Now with online technology, PLA can bring this knowledge to the Thai people in Thailand and other countries to become professional interpreters and translators and to improve their English skills at an affordable price.
เนื่องจากปัจจุบันนี้เรามีเทคโนโลยีออนไลน์ PLA สามารถนำความรู้ให้กับคนไทยที่ประเทศไทยและในประเทศอื่นๆ ที่จะเป็นล่ามและนักแปลมืออาชีพ และพัฒนาทักษะภาษาอังกฤษได้ในราคาที่ส่วนใหญ่สามารถเรียนได้

Students will be happy with the quality of the content and the quantity that we are offering.
ผู้เรียนจะพอใจกับคุณภาพและปริมาณของเนื้อหาที่เราจะมอบให้

Please visit our website for more information.
กรุณาเข้าชมเว็บไซต์ของเราสำหรับรายละเอียดเพิ่มเติม

Website: paiboonlanguageacademy.com
Facebook: Paiboon Language Academy

Paiboon Language Academy, a subscription based online learning website, offers two main courses: The Interpretation Course (US$25 per month / US$250 per year) and the General English Course ($10 per month / $100 per year). Both courses have online videos, monthly exercises or quizzes.

Even if you are not interested in studying to be a Thai interpreter or translator (yet), you’ll reap the benefits because lucky for us, Benjawan has a generous nature. Stay tuned for taster videos in Thai and English.

If you are not familiar with Benjawan’s work, here’s an interview just out this week by Thai Women Living Abroad: Benjawan, Interpreter and Famous Language Guru. And here’s my interview with Benjawan Poomsan Becker.

Posts on WLT written by Benjawan:
Teaser: The Interpreter’s Journal: How it Started
Teaser: The Interpreter’s Journal: Mistakes and Misinterpretations
Teaser: The Interpreter’s Journal: Studying Foreign Languages

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Call for English Speakers Learning Thai: Junyawan’s Linguistics Research Project at Chula

Junyawan's Linguistics Research Project at Chula

Junyawan’s Research Project…

If you are a native English speaker learning Thai, Junyawan Suwannarat, a PhD candidate at Chula, needs your help.

Please take part in my research. Upon completion of the study, participants would receive a renumeration of THB 500, and a tentative evaluation report of your Thai language proficiency.

The tasks consist of 4 sections:

  1. Be pared up to have a conversation in Thai [60 minutes].
  2. Tell a story in Thai from a picture book [20 minutes].
  3. Fill out the language history questionnaire.
  4. Translate 60 sentences in English into Thai [no time limit to complete – you can take it back home].

*In the 1st and 2nd section, your verbal responses will be recorded.

Facebook: Junyawan Suwannarat
Tel: 086 915 1074

Chula University

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Interview: Luca Lampariello on Learning Languages

Interview: Luca Lampariello on Learning Languages

YouTube polyglot Luca Lampariello…

Back in 2009 YouTube polyglots were becoming all the rage. Poking around to see what all the excitement was about, Luca Lampariello’s Channel stood out for me. What really impressed me was Luca’s method for learning languages. And the array of languages he spoke wasn’t too shabby either: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese.

After Luca and I’d been chatting for awhile, he agreed to explain his method in more detail in order for me to share it here. With much patience on his side (thanks Luca) together we created what became two top draws on WLT. And by the end, Luca and I became friends.

If you haven’t read them yet, they are absolutely worth your while: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One and An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two.

Over the years Luca has continued to dedicate his time to the language learning community. Definitely past time for an interview!

Interview: Luca Lampariello on Learning Languages…

Hi Luca, how are you? Long time no see! During our first collaboration you spoke nine languages. How many languages do you speak now?

Interview: Luca Lampariello on Learning LanguagesHi Catherine. I am great thanks! Well, it depends on the definition of “speaking a language”. I like thinking of a language as a network that we build with time. In my opinion, being able to speak a language means being able to assemble words together to form sentences, as well as being able to interact with native speakers in daily life. It is a bit like playing with Legos. When we have 100 Lego pieces in front of us, the very first thing that comes to mind is not the quantity but the question “how am I going to assemble them together?” One can know an incredible amount of words without even being able to string a sentence together. Also, communication between two human beings is always bidirectional, so when somebody asks me such a question, I always think about speaking as well as understanding what people say. That’s another capacity that we develop by way of practice and exposure, and it is an integral part of using a language.

How do you choose which language to learn and why do you decide to study a particular one?

I have to say that in this regard languages are like girls. We have the illusion that we choose them, but in the end, they choose us. If I think about it, it is the languages that have chosen me along my path, and every single one has a different story.

How long does it take for you to learn a new language to fluency?

Once again, one should clearly define the term fluency. Unfortunately it is a very vague term, and everybody has their own definition. Having said that, and having given my own definition, I would say that the amount of time it takes to reach fluency depends on your mother tongue and the target language. In my case, it took me less than a year to become fluent in Spanish, and more than two years to become fluent in Chinese. So in general, it takes six months to two years to become “fluent”, depending on the language. In this regard, I would also distinguish between “conversational fluency” and “advanced fluency”. One thing is to be able to speak and understand natives, another is to enjoy a language in all its aspects: books, movies, cultural jokes, etc. That takes a much longer time.

Is it possible to learn a language in one month or in a relatively short amount of time?

The modern world is obsessed with speed. Language learning is a long road if our objective is to be able to use language in all its aspects. That said, adults already have their own native tongue in place, which is an advantage because we don’t start totally from scratch like kids do. But just to start communicating at a very basic level is certainly possible, especially in languages that are close to our own.

Regarding your study routine, how many hours a day do you spend on learning your languages?

Not that much to tell you the truth. I spend relatively little time deliberately studying a language, 30 minutes, maybe 1 hour a day when I am inspired, but the key factor is consistency: I do it every day. Learning something every day, even at small doses, leads to success in every activity. I call it “the bucket effect”. Look at an empty bucket. A drop falls in it. “Ok”, you might say – “it still looks empty”. Without realizing it though, one drop every five seconds can fill a bucket in a matter of hours. Our brain is like a bucket, and the drops are the bits and pieces of information that flow into it, day by day. After months our brain is full of information and ready to be used in the real world. And when we start doing that, we start learning faster and faster as we get exposed to the language.

People are often in awe of your pronunciation in all the languages that you speak. How can you reach such near-native pronunciation? And how can one reach a near-native pronunciation in a foreign language?

Oh, that’s a tough one (kidding). I think that there are two main factors that really make a difference in this regard:

First, I am interested in sounds, and I do care about having good pronunciation. So I start paying attention to phonetic patters from the very beginning.

Secondly, I am good at impersonating other people. I think that while training is great, I also believe that in order to reach certain results, one has to let go of his personality in one’s native language and “live” another character in another language. If the world is a stage, like Shakespeare writes, then taking on another language is like switching from the character one has always played into a different character within the frame of another story.

Proof of this is that when I speak another language I have a different personality. I do different things, I act differently, my gestures are different. Everything changes, and when I speak, it is as if I had another experience of life. This is the sum of all my experiences, the people I’ve met, the movies I’ve watched in that language. They all breathe and live inside of me when I use the language.

Did it ever happen to you to be taken for a native speaker? What was people’s reaction about that? Do you think it is that important?

Yes, many times. Especially in English, French, Spanish and German. Now it is happening more and more often in Russian. People are always surprised, and it always ends up spawning interesting experiences. Once I was sitting in a square in Rome and I heard a loud burp. I said, in English, “what, that is a loud burp there”. The girl who belched laughed and asked me if I was American. From that little exchange, I got to know someone who became one of my best American friends, and I don’t think it would have happened if I hadn’t replied in that accent. I can tell you countless stories like this. People’s attitude towards you changes considerably, and I found it be a strong motivation in learning other languages.

Speaking like a native doesn’t have to be the main goal of a language learner. It is not an easy goal to reach, and to be totally frank, just a tiny fraction of people achieve it, and for a number of various reasons. Having said that, I think that achieving good pronunciation within everyone’s reach, provided that they start working on it from the very beginning.

Which is the most critical aspect in learning a foreign language: grammar, syntax or vocabulary? Any useful tips or piece of advice to tackle these three aspects?

There is no single aspect more critical than the others. They are all equally important. I think that languages are living, extremely complex entities and we shouldn’t focus too much on the single parts because we run the risk of “getting lost in the maze”. That said, some languages have specific features that pose problems. The characters and tones of Mandarin Chinese, for example. I think that one should find a way to tackle languages in a way that suits their needs and tastes, and that embraces languages as a whole. The method needs to be flexible though, so that one can adapt it to the specific language.

As far as grammar and syntax are concerned, a famous Hungarian polyglot used to say “don’t learn language from the grammar, but grammar from the language”. I completely agree. I think that while some grammar explanations are great at the beginning, one starts figuring out the patterns of the language through exposure. If we try to learn all the rules at the beginning, we end up getting lost and frustrated when we realize we cannot actually use those rules in the real world. The same goes for syntax. I say, get exposed to the language, use it, and the fog of grammar and syntax will lift in the course of time.

As for vocabulary, my first piece of advice is to get a hold of content that you like. Interest causes your brain to retain information more efficiently. Then use spaced-time repetition. We don’t store a word just by looking at it. We need to see it a few times and in different contexts before it “sinks in”.

You are known for using a technique involving translation from and to the target language. Some might find it a hindrance to the development of the capacity to “think” directly in the foreign language. What is your take on that?

It is always a question of how you do it, and my experience is that there is a “right” way to use translation. I use translation as a tool to figure out the patterns of a foreign language while using my own as a crutch. I do this for a few months, after which I start using the language without even thinking about my own. If one translates with the wrong goal in mind and does it poorly, they run the risk of filtering everything through the lens of their own language, and that should obviously be avoided because it creates considerable interference.

What other languages are you planning to learn? Thai, for instance?

Of course I have! Thai is one of the languages that I would really like to learn. I have heard great stories from friends who went to Thailand, and the idea of enjoying such a lovely country and interacting with the locals in their own language is exhilarating.

Do you enjoy traveling? Do you think that it’s important to travel to learn languages? And … any plans to come Thailand?

I love traveling. I was thinking about this recently on the plane back to Rome. Travelling, like language learning, is a journey into new worlds, but it is also an inner journey that we take inside ourselves. All those who have traveled, no matter the distance, have felt that strange, bittersweet feeling of bewilderment, a sudden desire to live more and more intensively. One of my favorite quotes comes from Chris McCandless, a guy whose story inspired “Into the Wild”: “staying is existing, traveling is living”.
Of course I will come to Thailand – did you have doubts about it? (laughing)

How has the ability to speak different languages changed your life?

They dramatically changed it in all its aspects. I work full-time as a language coach on-line, and I use tons of languages every day. I made friends with many many people from all over the world, and when I travel or I live in a foreign country, life is so much easier. If somebody were to ask me for one reason why I learn so many foreign languages, I would simply answer “for all the reasons of the world”

Where are you now in your path? What are your projects for 2014?

I have a ton of projects lining up. The most important one is the book I have been writing for quite some time now. But right now I am working on a huge workshop that is going to take place in Vienna next week. I have been working hard on it. The main goal is to give people the right tools and frame of mind to achieve their dreams. For example, with the internet, I think the focus is shifting from giving language learners the “right” materials (of which there is overabundance) to teaching them first how to find and create their own materials according to their tastes, and above all, how to use them.

Thanks for this interview Luca.

Thank you Catherine!

You can find more about Luca’s workshop here: How to learn a language WITHOUT killing yourself

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

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How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country: Thai Resources Included

How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country

Video: How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country…

In David Mansaray’s latest video he asks interpreter and translator Robert Bigler for his views on learning a language in a foreign country. In the video, Robert also discussed how he actively studies languages.

This is one of the best videos on learning languages. It’s that good. Actually, this video is what I’ve come to expect from David. David’s How to Use Motivation Effectively video is brilliant.

How to learn a language in a foreign country…

My original intention was to share only the bare basics but I found so MUCH good stuff I asked David for permission to post the full list. Thank you for your generosity David!

And while I’m handing out thanks, thank you for introducing us to Robert too. He’s a jewel :-)

If you enjoyed the video as much as I did, please leave comments on David’s YouTube channel: How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country.

In the interview Robert gives advice on learning resources. I’ve added top favourites for learning Thai to the post below. I could easily add more but I ran out of time. If you have other suggestions, please do share them in the comments.

For even more resources for learning Thai, go to WLTs FREE Thai language learning resources. If you want to read about the resources, WLTs check out Archives.

Talking points: How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country…

Prepare yourself: get as much information about the country as possible, acquire enough of the language to have a basic conversation, be open-minded and interested in the language as well as the culture and people.

Learning resources…

The bare essentials: a good dictionary with sample sentences, basic grammar book, self-study course with dialogs, a good phrase book.

Instead of buying ten books and merely glancing at each, take one small book to focus on.

Dictionaries with phrases:
Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English dictionary (hardcopy with CD)
New Model English-Thai Dictionary ฉบับห้องสมุด (Set) (ปกแข็ง) (hardcopy)
P. Sethaputra English-Thai Dictionary of Contemporary Usage (paperback)
Thai-language.com dictionary (online)
Thai2English dictionary(online)

Dictionary:
Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary

Note: This dictionary doesn’t have sentences (yet) but it’s still the best dictionary on the market.

WLT: Android and iPhone: Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary Review

Grammar books:
Thai: An Essential Grammar (hardcopy) and Kindle edition
Thai Reference Grammar: The Structure of Spoken Thai (hard copy)

WLT: Review: A Guide to Thai Grammar Books

Self-Study courses:
Essential Thai (hard copy)
FSI Materials: Thai Language Wiki
Glossika Thai
ITS4Thai online
ITS4Thai iOS apps
Jcademy: Cracking Thai Fundamentals (online)
Teach Yourself Thai Complete (hard copy)
Thai for Beginners (hard copy) and iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad App
Thai language products at Paiboon Publishing
Learn Thai Podcast (online and iTunes)
L-Lingo Thai (online) and iOS iPad

WLT: Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Thai Bites
WLT: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai
WLT: FREE Download: Glossika Thai Fluency 1 GMS and GSR
WLT: ITS4Thai DRAW + iPhone and iPad Review
WLT: Thai for Beginners iPhone App
WLT: Review: Learn Thai Podcast Relaunches!
WLT: Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai

Phrasebooks:
WLT: iPhone Apps: Thai Language Phrase books
WLT: Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review

Natural materials…

Start with natural material as soon as possible: radio programs, newspaper articles, magazines, on subjects you are interested in.

Radio:
Cat Radio
Surf Music: Thailand
Thailand Radio Stations
Radio Thailand and Thai TV & Radio Pro (iOS apps)

Paul Garrigan: This is the Sound of Thailand

Newspapers:
Onlinenewspapers.com: Thailand
Learn how to read Thai newspapers at Paknam Forums
Learning from the news > Learn Thai from the Bangkok Post

WLT: Free Download: Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building
WLT: Learn Thai from the Bangkok Post

Thai TV:
FukDuK.tv (offline for now – will be back)
Thai tv Online, ThaiTVonline.tv

Frequency lists…

Use frequency lists. The same 3-4000 words come up all the time. Learn them. Work with them. If you don’t understand something, ask people to explain.

Chula University: 5000 word frequency list (no longer online at Chula)

You’ll notice that Chula’s list is all in Thai. When I asked Mark Hollow (programmer) about the English he graciously created several versions for download.

WLT: Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions

Words, phrases, conversations…

Learn phrases you’ll use in discussions pertinent to your life: who you are, where you are from, what you do, how old you are, etc.

Have a basic set of structures: how to say what happened in the past, what is going on right now, what’s going to happen in the future.

Anticipate likely conversations, prepare your replies, talk to yourself in the foreign language, rehearse as if you are on stage.

When preparing for conversations on certain subjects write down repeatedly used words and expressions. Go through them. The words you lacked in previous conversations are the words you need to focus on.

If you hear a nice expression use it in your next sentence. Make sentences out of the words you’ve just heard.

When you have problems with expressing yourself, immediately look it up. If there is something you cannot say because you don’t know the word, look up that word.

Don’t learn words on their own without context. If you learn them in context you will get exposure to the words and structures. Exposure is the key.

You don’t need a lot of material but you have to be able to reproduce them automatically so it’s essential to actually speak the language. You need to get used to talking. Your muscles need to be trained.

How to listen…

Be a good listener. You will benefit from the wealth of knowledge received from the person you are talking to.

To get into the flow of the language listen to audio. Get a lot of exposure by listening. Listening helps to practice the language passively. Listen carefully and attentively. Don’t listen in the background.

Audio:
Glossika Thai
Self Study Thai: Audio, transcripts, English translations and flashcards from VOA
Thai Recordings: Five minute audio clips with transcripts for intermediate learners of Thai

WLT: FREE Download: Glossika Thai Fluency 1 GMS and GSR
WLT: Free Podcasts in the Thai Language
WLT: ดึงดูดใจ: Thai Lyrics and Translations

Create a natural environment…

Create a natural environment by getting involved in discussions of interest on TV and radio. Sitcoms are a great way to get use to structures that come up in everyday conversation. If you lack the words to get your point across in your fake conversation, look them up. Keep talking. Say something like, “I’m sorry I have to look up the word”.

Thai videos on YouTube:
Andrew Biggs on YouTube
Andrew Bigs: Easy English
Adam Bradshaw’s YouTube Channel
AUA: Learn Thai Language Videos
ฝรั่งป๊อก ป๊อก Farang Pok Pok (search for other episodes)

WLT: AUA Thai Videos on YouTube
WLT: Thai Movies: A Relaxing Way to Study Thai

Tips on reading, writing, speaking…

Writing and reading is the whole package. When it comes to internalising grammatical structures and vocabulary, writing does a lot.

Write by hand, not by using the computer.

Copy books. Look at the words. Really get involved. Read the sentences out loud. Write them. Look at them. Get embedded in the language environment.

Speaking and reading:
AUA Thai: Reading and Writing videos
Learn2SpeakThai: Learn Thai with Maanii Books
Slice of Thai: Voice Viewer
Thai Reader Project

WLT: Andrew Biggs is Tongue Thai’d on YouTube
WLT: AUA Thai: FREE Reading and Writing Videos
WLT: Download 12 FREE Manee Books
WLT: Free Online Thai Readers
WLT: FREE Resource: Thai Reader Project
WLT: Thai-English Readers with Mp3s
WLT: The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write Thai

Language exchange…

For language exchange using email, you both choose the topics you are interested in. Each prepares text. Each corrects the other’s. You have the time to work with whatever tool you feel comfortable with (a dictionary, sentences from books, etc).

ALG Crosstalk Project: Bangkok

WLT: How to Learn Thai via Skype: The Series
WLT: Online Language Exchange Partners

Meeting native speakers…

When going abroad for an extended period of time, try to meet people by: joining clubs, fitness clubs, playing sports, and doing volunteer work.

Volunteer work is the best way to actually live with the people and not just beside them or next to them.

Be honest enough to tell people that you appreciate being corrected. Encourage people to correct you. Ask them to help you out. But also ask them not to judge you. There is a major difference between correcting somebody and judging somebody.

But it’s not the mistakes you should be worrying about. It is not being told about your mistakes.

It’s very important, especially in the beginning stages, that you meet someone you feel comfortable with to talk to.

When you get to the stage where you are open enough to actually learn from others without feeling bad for making mistakes, then you will be really successful.

Making progress is why it’s very important to have somebody around you who is understanding, but is also honest enough to actually tell you what you are saying wrong.

How to deal with communication snafus…

There will be moments of frustration, even when you believe that you are well-prepared. When this happens, don’t give up. Keep practicing.

You will make a lot of mistakes and at first might not understand much of what they are saying. When you make mistakes ask people to help you out.

When you struggle in conversation, once back at home get out your dictionary and turn to the subject at hand.

A final word from David Mansaray…

When it comes to spoken language people are willing to let some things go, but when it comes to writing people are a lot more sensitive to mistakes. They are going to be a lot more honest when correcting your mistakes. Writing is a great tool for the shy because you don’t have to immediately deal with that confrontation, you can look at your own mistakes to see where to improve.

It’s really important to have someone that you trust to help you with your language. Who you practice language with is also very important. When going through the stages you can be physiologically fragile. If you are not corrected in a friendly way then you can lose confidence in yourself, and that can make you retreat.

Where to find David and Robert…

David Mansaray:

Web: David Mansaray
YouTube Channel: davidmansaray
twitter: @DavidMansaray

Robert Bigler:

The Polyglot Project Podcast: Robert Bigler

Please join me in congratulating David and Robert on their fabulous video at: How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country.

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UPDATE: Jeff Netto’s Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto’s Thai Challenge…

Jeff is a serious language learner. If you remember, he started his Thai language challenge with ziltch Thai. Nada. In addition to the 6 week challenge Jeff set himself 19 months to learn as much Thai as he can. Reason? A friend is learning Thai too, only in Thailand.

I’ve seen other language challenges but I’ve never seen the likes of what Jeff got up to. During the challenge, Jeff studied four hours a day, six hours a day, ten hours a day even. Impressive.

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

And Jeff has real excuses to avoid studying (I have a handful of my own). I mean, he works ten hour days, has a young family, yet he still drove himself to study long hours.

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

Jeff didn’t stop at learning Thai either. Alongside Thai, Jeff concentrated on Serbian, Xhosa and Spanish. Again, impressive.

How did Jeff manage? During the day he grabbed opportunities where he could and after work he studied long after his household was asleep. Given the choice of sleeping or studying languages, Jeff chose languages.

This, my friends, is a man with a serious language passion.

Interview with inspirational polyglot Jeff Netto…

Understandably, Jeff is still busy concentrating on his Thai challenge so instead of my usual long list of questions I’ve kept the interview to the bare minimum.

Jeff, what is your mother tongue?

(Brazilian) Portuguese.

When did your passion for learning languages develop?

Well, it started when I was a kid learning martial arts, Japanese was the first language I ventured on at age 14. Almost at the same time I started to have English classes at school as part of the Brazilian Public School’s Curriculum. Later on came French (age 17) influenced by a couple friends who were engaged in a government project for foreign languages training.

But what REALLY took me for a loop was an exercise given by a college professor back in Brazil. The class was “Instrumental English” (aimed at preparing the student to do peer reviews and bibliographical research in the Biology field), and the exercise was basically to interpret texts in different languages by using visual or cognate material in the text itself, no dictionaries or any other aid material.

Each week she brought a different text: Spanish, Italian, Japanese… those three didn’t really offer many difficulties, but when she finally brought the text in German everything changed!

I remember it was a Mickey Mouse comics page, and I could only give the meaning of three words out of the whole story! I can’t express the frustration I felt…

I remember ditching the second block of classes and going straight to the university library. I pulled out a German dictionary and a German grammar book and started to translate the little story. Well, as you know, dictionaries don’t list conjugated or declined (case) words, so I decided to appeal to the Internet.

As soon as I typed “German Grammar” on Altavista (yeah, I know it is old…) I came across the website: “travlang.com/Languages” (that is actually still active) which offered the basics for about 70 different languages with links to support material. And then the rest you already know… chain reaction! German, Russian, Korean, Hebrew, Swahili, you name it!

This happened in 2000, and I haven’t stopped since.

You mentioned the importance of changing out activities, to not overdo. Could you please explain further?

When you decide to study a language you need to make sure that you have a balance between the main skills of a language: writing, reading, listening and speaking. Otherwise you may have a counterproductive effect, which actually happened to me after the last day of the challenge. I studied over 24 hours of Thai straight, so even with changing methods my brain got sick of it! I couldn’t touch a Thai book for nearly a month.

I have to admit that it was quite embarrassing, but it does serve as an example to others who are considering a similar challenge whereas they put an excessive amount of study hours in one single language!

Which Shadowing method are you using?

:) It is hard to define which type I followed, I definitely didn’t walk back-and-forth in a park reciting Thai out loud! I don’t think I would EVER do that. What I call shadowing, is in essence the very same thing others do: listen to audio files repeating out loud the expression while trying to get as close as possible from the native pronunciation (like the guy from Pimsleur always says…).

But beyond that I modify the sentences to fit my goals. It is quite effective when you are doing some sort of manual labor which requires mechanical movements, because you can let your mind run free while your arms and legs operate on “auto-pilot”.

Now that it’s over, what are your overall thoughts on your six week Thai challenge?

It was amazing, and I intend to participate in many others! Probably with different languages, but I’ll definitely keep going with Thai.

The Challenge gave a different taste to the tedious study process, which can be extremely motivating at times.

How will your 19 month Thai challenge be planned out?

Well, taking into consideration that I need to juggle 17 college credits and off-record language study at the same time, I’m still studying the possibilities. But I intend to find a steady study-buddy and keep on until life intervenes. :)

What are your suggestions for language learners aiming to emulate your studies?

There are a couple guidelines that I think would give learners some leverage:

  1. Find a concrete interest to support your language study. Be it to impress that one girl in French class or read the Old Testament in Hebrew, it doesn’t matter what the interest is, as long as it exists;
  2. Find out how you learn things (wikipedia: Learning Styles), your study time will be most effective if you know how information sticks to your brain!
  3. (in case you are not living in the country where the languages is spoken) Immerse yourself as much as you can. Music, TV, radio, any and everything you can find in that language;
  4. Be humble about it! If you can’t understand after reading three times, ask somebody with experience. At the end of the day you’ll need to interact anyway, right?!
  5. NEVER, EVER let obstacles or other people’s comments demotivate you! You can do it! No matter what it is, you can do it!

Jeff Netto,
twitter: JNatAlkhimia
YouTube: JNatAlkhimia
Blog: The Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto’s impressive Thai language learning timeline on twitter…

I followed Jeff’s tweets from the beginning. And from the start of the 6 week challenge Jeff stayed at the top of the pack.

But what really interested me was his pattern of study and how he switched out the focus. He’d write for a bit, watch a video on YouTube, study vocabulary, and then perhaps get back to writing.

And if Stu Jay Raj had a twitter challenge timeline I imagine it’d look similar. I’ll ask.

Because I was curious, I kept a rolling record of Jeff’s progress. I’ve tidied it up a bit so you can get some language learning inspiration too.

Pdf download: Jeff’s Twitter Thai Challenge

NOTE: As mentioned, in addition to Thai Jeff was studying other languages but I only kept the Thai tweets.

The Thai language learning community comes out in support…

Many in the Thai language community followed Jeff’s progress. I was chuffed to hear that the top three Thai language products were so generous in their support of his Thai challenge.

Learn Thai Podcast was on Jeff’s twitter timeline from the very beginning. And when LTP discovered Jeff’s passion for language learning, Jo and Jay gifted him with the entire LTP package. Fantastic.

Jeff started with Rosetta Stone but when he played around with a free version of L-lingo, Rosetta Stone was out and L-lingo was in. And also watching his progress were the good folks at L-lingo who graciously gave Jeff their software version.

Benjawan Becker from Paiboon Publishing was also curious about Jeff’s Thai challenge. Always one to support avid students of Thai, Benjawan sent her entire collection of learning Thai CD’s.

Jeff is plugging away at another language challenge so when he comes up for air I’ll ask for a brief review of Learn Thai Podcast, L-lingo, and the Thai language CD’s at Paiboon Publishing.

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Interview: Benjawan Poomsan Becker

Benjawan Poomsan Becker

Learning Thai with Benjawan…

What do I think of when I hear the name Benjawan Poomsan Becker?

My mind immediately goes to her wide range of Thai learning products: Thai for Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners, Thai for Advanced Readers, Practical Thai Conversation 1&2, Speak Like a Thai 1-6, Thai for Lovers, Thai for Gay Tourists, Thai für Anfänger, Thai for Kids, Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, Thai for Travelers Phrase Book, and the Thai-English English-Thai Dictionary.

New out? Benjawan’s Three-way Thai-English Dictionary with Chris Pirazzi, and her Thai Hit Songs Vol. 1 (released this month).

And those are just the products for the Thai language learning market.

I know. Wow.

And as you will soon read in the interview below, there is still more to come.

Benjawan Poomsan Becker Interview

On top of Thai, Lao and Issan, you also know English, Japanese and Spanish. At what age did you discover your talent for languages?

I started learning basic English in grade 5 when I was about 10 years old. Everyone in school was required to learn English at that age and although I excelled in my studies I did not think I had any particular talents in learning languages.

I had a hard time in school with math so I enrolled in the liberal arts curriculum and as a prerequisite I was required/forced to take French when I was 15 years old. I was able to learn French very quickly and it was then that I realized I had a special talent as far as learning and speaking foreign languages was concerned.

What was your path to the Thai language teaching profession?

I didn’t begin teaching the Thai language until I was in college and then only just for fun. I was a student doing my master’s degree in Kobe, Japan and taught part-time at the Japan Thailand Trade Association in Osaka. I liked the experience of inventing ways to help people learn Thai. Although I ended up teaching many Thai classes I found out that I enjoy the process of writing books to teach the Thai language more than the actual teaching in a classroom situation.

What are your favourite Thai language books?

The Principle of Thai Grammar หลักภาษาไทย by กำชัย ทองหล่อ.

Who are your Thai language heroes, and how did they influence the design of your courses?

Thai poet, Sunthornphu สุนทรภู่. I consider him my Thai literary hero and to me he is equal in talent to Shakespeare in his ability to craft the language. Plus he had the extra complication of a tonal language in his rhyming poems. But most foreigners will have a difficult time appreciating his work since it is highly developed Thai poetry.

I don’t believe I was influenced by any language hero for the designs of my Thai language courses, up to now. The poetry of Sunthornphu has inspired me in my development of my latest Thai language learning product, Thai Hit Songs Vol. 1. Writing the lyrics to the songs and working on the melodies with the musicians I can definitely feel that influence from the greatest Thai poet.

What foreign language methods/courses did you study when designing your courses?

I was influenced by the book Basic Japanese (Nihongo No Kiso). I admired their structure, the step-by-step approach and how easy it was to follow. In designing my Thai language learning materials those were some of the main ideas that guided me to developing Thai for Beginners.

On the subject of language methods, what are you thoughts on: roll playing, SRS (flash cards), a crash course, and the natural approach?

Every person learns a language differently and whatever works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Personally I never used flashcards but I know it is a helpful device for many people. And roll playing works well if you have someone to practice with. For me the natural approach is the best.

Your three core books, Thai for Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners, and Thai for Advance Readers have different approaches, would you please briefly explain your thought process for each?

I spent a lot of time developing Thai for Beginners, thinking about the structure, what to include in each chapter and how to have each lesson build upon the preceding one.

For the intermediate level book, I was not as concerned about each chapter building on the previous one since the students already have a command of the Thai language. Therefore, each chapter can pretty much stand on its own. I felt that learning more about the Thai culture while learning new language material would be beneficial so I included information on Thai holidays and events.

Thai for Advanced Readers is a collection of essays I wrote about my life and family and is a completely different structure that the first two. I thought using personal essays of my life as a woman growing up in Thailand would make it more interesting to my readers. Consequently, I structured the essays to include more complex vocabulary related to Thai culture and family life, but tried to make them interesting and informative as a reflection of everyday life growing up in Thailand.

As I am struggling to compile a list of the top Thai vocabulary words a learner must know, I am especially interested in how you chose the vocabulary for your Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Learners courses.

To develop the vocabulary lists in my Thai language books, I imagined what types of interactions people would encounter on their daily excursions in Thailand. I tried to include words that would be useful but also inject some humorous words and words specific to the Thai culture into the list. I would visualize a conversation for each situation and then determine the sentences and words that someone would need to successfully interact in that context.

The advantage of designing Thai for Beginners from the ground up was that it was developed specifically for the Thai language market rather than having been written for one language and then simply translate the vocabulary list into Thai the way some language programs have been developed.

From what I am seeing, Thai For Beginners is especially popular with students and Thai teachers alike. What aspects of the book do you believe makes this so?

Thai for Beginners is uncomplicated, well structured and each chapter builds on the previous chapter. Both students and teachers like an organized, logical approach since it makes their tasks clear. Nothing discourages language learning more than a textbook that is inconsistent and provides confusing direction.

Also, the transliteration system I have developed, which we use in all of our Thai learning materials, is easy to understand, can be learned quickly and is extremely consistent. It doesn’t have to be modified to cover many unusual cases and the students don’t have to learn many “exceptions” to the rules.

I believe these are some of the contributing factors to the popularity of the book. I’m really looking forward to incorporating all the new language learning techniques I have gain since writing the first edition of Thai for Beginners into the second edition.

What gave you the idea to produce so many products for learning Thai? Did one lead to the other, or was a series planned from the beginning?

Everybody learns a language differently. That’s why Paiboon Publishing has developed language books, audio CDs, DVDs, software and now with our new product, Thai Hit Songs Vol. 1, we include songs as a way to learn the Thai language. When I was learning Spanish I used over 20 different books, each provided new insight. No book can teach a student all the aspects of a new language so we provide a variety of ways to learn Thai.

As for the specific product development for our materials, when I wrote Thai for Beginners I had no idea that I would write the intermediate and advanced books. I may have organized them differently if I planned this from the beginning. They just developed organically when it became apparent to me that they were needed by my students.

But now we put more thought into looking at each new product as a potential new series. For our series Speak like a Thai I envisioned about 10 volumes with specific titles before we even started the series. The sequence in which they were eventually released changed and I modified some of the titles and content, but the basic format remains the same as the day we developed the original concept for the series.

What energized you to start your own publishing company, Paiboon Publishing?

My experience is probably similar to many first time writers. I wrote Thai for Beginners and then attempted to get it published. My manuscript was rejected by almost all of the publishing companies I approached. The ones that were interested in publishing my book offered me such low royalty rates I’d never make any money from my book sales.

So I decided to publish my own book and distribute it myself. Fortunately I had some friends that were very knowledgeable and experienced in the publishing business and they tutored and guided through the process. I’m grateful for those early book rejections; otherwise I never would have established Paiboon Publishing.

What can we expect in Paiboon Publishing’s future?

Paiboon Publishing’s future is extremely exciting. We will be coming out with a variety of new products and expanding the types of language learning materials we produce. Soon we will be releasing the digital version of our compact Thai-English dictionary designed for use on PC’s and mobile phone with spoken Thai words. Our Thai Hit Songs Vol. 1 is available now and includes a 94 page explanation booklet along with the 10 song music CD. The DVD music video version of our first music will be out in early 2010.

We have more plans for digital downloads and podcasts of Thai language lessons that will be available from our website and iTunes. Interested students should check our website for announcements of future releases, or get on our mailing email list.

My Thai teacher mentioned that her overall objective for each student is to find what their main obstacles to learning Thai are. What obstacles do you address in your courses?

I have found that one of the biggest obstacles to successfully learning Thai is the ability to read and write the language. Many people learn enough phrases in Thai to communicate well enough to satisfy their basic needs. But to learn Thai effectively you really should be able to read and write it. That’s why my Thai for Beginners includes writing exercises.

Although my transliteration system is well designed and extremely helpful for the beginning student it is only a crutch and should be discarded as soon as possible. If students put the effort to overcome the obstacle of reading and writing Thai, the rewards will be tremendous.

What are the typical mistakes made by students of the Thai language, and what advice can you give?

As you know most students have a problem with tones in the Thai language. Unfortunately, even with the correct word, the incorrect tone will make the word incomprehensible. Learning a little vocabulary with the proper tones is better than having a huge vocabulary pronounced incorrectly. Any method to be more cognoscente of and sensitive to the tone changes will be helpful.

Another common mistake is misplaced words in sentences in using Thai. The proper sequence in Thai for example would be the word “ให้.” เขาไปให้ and เขาให้ไป are different and many Thai learners can’t tell the difference or just make mistakes. For this condition memorization is the solution. A Thai grammar book might be a good future product for Paiboon Publishing.

In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing students of the Thai language?

There are challenges in learning any new language but with enough time, energy and desire most students can overcome them. For Thai the writing is a great challenge, and of course the tones. Mastering the 5 tones also takes practice and determination.

What background do you find more successful for a student learning Thai: A student who has first absorbed the language via audio, tv, radio, living in Thailand; or a student coming in fresh?

I would say that living in Thailand and studying the language would achieve the most success in leaning Thai. Someone can live in Thailand for many years but without a serious effort to learn the language they will never expand beyond the basic conversation level.

Again, each person learns a language differently and listening to songs, the radio and watching TV may be helpful to some. Whatever the method a serious, determined approach to the task is required. One of my favorite online comments about Thai for Beginners is, “This book is totally useless unless you are serious about learning Thai.” That seems to say it all; use whatever works but be consistent and dedicated in your process of learning Thai.

How often do you advise students to study Thai each week, and for how long each time?

I would recommend spending 10 hours a week studying Thai. One to two hours each session from 4 to 6 days a week and the student should definitely see progress. Review is the key to retention. What was learned one day should be reviewed the next day, weekly and monthly until it is firmly implanted in your memory. Also practice is most important. Speak Thai at every available opportunity. Most people are too shy to speak a new language and consequently never practice speaking to people. The most successful students are the fearless ones that speak Thai with all their improper tones and grammar.

What other advice do you give students of the Thai language?

My personal advice would be to learn Thai by learning songs. That’s how I learned to speak English when I was a young girl growing up in Isaan. I probably know more words to songs in English and Spanish than many native speakers. But, music is in my blood and I love to sing and dance. Each person needs to find out what excites and inspires them and then follow that lead.

Benjawan Poomsan Becker
Paiboon Publishing

The legacy of Benjawan Poomsan Becker…

Thank you Benjawan, for your insightful interview, as well as your contribution to the Thai language learning community. When I glance through your long list of products, I am always impressed. When your youthful photo arrived, I was impressed even more as I was expecting someone of a much grander age. Fabulous. I am looking forward to many more successful products from Paiboon Publishing.

Resources mentioned in this post…

Benjawan’s Thai learning products can be purchased at Paiboon Publishing, most large books stores in Bangkok, and online via amazon.com and .uk.

Be sure to subscribe to Paiboon Publishing’s new and growing YouTube Channel.

Read all about the author of The Principle of Thai Grammar หลักภาษาไทย, กำชัย ทองหล่อ, at Rikker’s blog, Thai 101.

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